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Reunions & Gatherings



We start with the first, later reunions are down the page


Frankfurt - Sept 28th/30th 2008

Can you still recall those end of prospect parties we used to have in various places (bars, usually) around the world? Well, something similar took place at the end of September, 2008, in Bad Homburg, Germany, when a group of ex ONI-ers gathered together for a few days. Out of touch for nigh on 20-30 years didn't make any difference whatsoever, it was as if we had just rolled back in to Geneva/Singapore/Nola/Perth etc from numerous other locations around the globe. As used to be our wont, we even picked up a stray along the way, invited her to join the group, which she eventually did.

The group were: Rich & Pam Longton; Ron & Lynne Hewson; Geoff & Jan Metcalfe; Peter Studer and Dave Taylor. The stray (a Canadian) was named Karen, and if you check out the attached photos - "Last Night"; Karen, the blonde nearest the camera - it will be obvious where the attraction lay! Well, most of the group were much younger than I!

Most of us gathered at the Comfort Hotel, although Rich Longton - still in "expenses paid" employment - was down the road in the much more salubrious surroundings of the Park Hotel. But, as old habits die hard, we were soon sipping champagne in the lobby of the Comfort whilst awaiting the arrival of the rest of the group.

Being this was his current area of operations, Rich had booked a table at a local Italian restaurant that went under the name of Panne & Vino, so we broke bread, drank the wine and sampled the food, all of which were very good - well they would be, wouldn’t they, given the company and surroundings. Wasn’t it always so?

The full group on arrival at the Comfort Hotel, Bad
Homburg - Lynne & Ron Hewson; Dave Taylor; Peter
Studer; Rich & Pam Longton; Jan & Geoff Metcalfe.

 Breakfast, the following morning.


That first night ended the following day, even if only one hour into it, when we adjourned for drinks in the bar of the Park. All except Ron and Lynne, whose journey from New Zealand had taken them thirty-two hours. Like I say, we are getting old, and age does take its toll.

Next morning, after breakfast, with Rich having to depart for the office - he was just wrapping things up, actually, before finally retiring back to Gig Harbor, Oregon (ah! Oregon! Reminds me of my first job for ONI. Remember the John Jacob Astor Hotel, in Astoria, anyone? Or Jose Shattles?) - we all departed for a walk round the park, over the road, opposite the hotel of the same name.

As we walked along the stories continued, the places we’d visited - countries rather than bars - and the people we had worked with. You know the kind of thing, "Do you remember the time when........?"

In the afternoon it was off to Frankfurt on the train - which is where we picked up Karen - ending up at a pub in the Old Town, the Haus Werthym (anno 1479). I was under the illusion that this was a "by chance" event, until Rich met us there later on. Still, technology has advanced somewhat, and there are such things as mobile phones.

In the Frankfurt pub. Must have been shortly
after arrival as there is not yet a drink in sight!

Outside the pub, with the exception of Peter Studer 

who had returned to his business in Switzerland.


Once again the stories began to roll out and I don't think Karen believed half of them, even though she had quite a story to tell herself, for which she duly received lots of fatherly - well, motherly, really - advice. As for ONI, names that were recalled from the depths - some mentioned in dispatches, others not so - were: Jerry Naylor, Lou Tessmer, Frank Gaffney, Jim Strayhorn, Phil Thompson, Joe Lock, Dennis Cooper, Dieter Moser, Klaus Keilich, Terry Barnett, Willie Williams, Reine (Ron) Wasserman, Gordon Owen, Gus Gustafson, Larry Slagle, Herb Eaton, Earl Benson - What DID happen to him? - John Damon, Bob Brown - strange, those two being grouped together! - Wolf Englemann, Trevor Loose, Frances Minguez, Larry Parks, and of course, Danny's Bar in Douala, came up now and again, as did names such as, Easterbrook and Coffman. And so it went on.

Lynne & Ron Hewson in Bad 

Homburg Park

En route from Bad Homburg to 

Frankfurt

Last night

After a pleasant afternoon spent here, it was off to the Adolf Wagner, for dinner, although Peter had to return home to Switzerland from the pub, as he too still works - for himself, as does Geoff. Come to think of it, the only male in the group no longer in employment, was myself. Perhaps that is how I ended up with the task of trying to pull this website together!


The Adolf Wagner was a German beer hall type place, although they only sold Appfelwine (or regular wine), along with meals consisting of pork or veal. Naturally we had to have jugs of the Appfewine, along with whatever it was I ate! The place was crowded and noisy. Lively, as they say. How we found our way back to the hotel in Bad Homburg I’m not too sure, but we did eventually make it, ending back in the bar at the Park Hotel once more.

Next day it rained. Fairly light most of the time, but all day, somewhat curbing our activities, to a hotel room. But that room did contain some bottles of this and that, so we sat and demolished those, eventually being joined again by Karen. Then we met up with Rich and Pam in the evening, to wander round looking for a suitable restaurant in which to dine. Almost naturally, after checking out one or two and rejecting them, we once more ended up at the Panne and Vino. Alas, with the departure of almost half our number, a bit of the sparkle seemed to have disappeared with them, too. It was another good night, but not as good.

The next morning, I departed back to London, Ron and Lynne set off in their hire car to tour Eastern Europe and points in between, Pam and Rich were preparing to fly to Gig Harbor, and retirement. Retirement! Rich? I somehow don’t think so.

So that was it. Many memories were recalled, much booze flowed, and everyone had a really great time over the three days we were together. Now we had drifted off along our various ways again, with promises to keep in touch.

Roll on the next one, when and wherever it may be.

           AUCKLAND 2013

Well, 'wherever' turned out to be New Zealand: 

At the beginning of November 2013 a small group of hardy souls (naturally) gathered at the Best Western Motel in Ellerslie, Auckland NZ to once again study how to spell ONI.

Rich & Pam Longton were the instigators of this gathering as they had come "down under" from Gig Harbor, Washington, to visit Pam’s Australian family, then decided to catch up with a few folks in "The Land of the Long White Cloud." Unfortunately, some of the Kiwis of earlier days were unable to make it, but those who did certainly had no trouble in recalling how to erect a Shoran tower, reassemble a generator, call a shot point, or put out a fire on a base station. Admittedly, there were a few deviations in some of the details, but hey! that’s only a minor issue in the big picture, when the beer & wine is flowing.

After the initial meeting in the bar, everyone adjourned to a motel room, of course, just like the old days, carrying chairs, glasses etc between rooms, to make sure it was an "authentic" ONI gathering! Tony Hoggart had traveled up from down near Wellington, as had Merv Williams, & it certainly was great to see them again. Geoff Rolfe-Smith & wife, Maureen, had traveled up from Rotorua, the Hewson’s, from the Bay of Plenty. We did try to Skype Dave Taylor whilst all this was happening, to have him join in with the laughter & memories, but there was obviously a glitch in the line.

We just fondly recalled old Lou Connor’s quote about "seeing forever on a clear day," & thought how different things would have been in those Shoran days with a few more satellites available. (Not to mention mobile phones etc!) Nevertheless, those were the days then, & no-one seemed to have any regrets about the incredible experiences that the ONI lifestyle gave them. (Or the fascinating people they met!) After time, & several bottles of wine had been consumed, naturally it was time to find a good place to soak it all up. So we wandered in dribs & drabs downtown to a very tasty Chinese eating house called the Red Crab, still talking & telling wild stories. Compared to times past it was a fairly subdued dinner, (possibly somewhat due to age & the time of the night?) but we all enjoyed a great meal. We then wandered back to our respective motel rooms with barely a nightcap being mentioned!

Breakfast the next morning was another catch up for a couple of hours, but then as several people had other commitments it was time to relocate to another station. The Hewsons & Longtons stayed an extra day together, then met up later in the week at the Hewson house, in Tauranga, for a few more days (After Pam & Rich had driven up north to meet up with Ian Easterbrook, at the Motel he runs). This allowed time for Rich & Bruce Burgess to meet up again, to share more stories. Next day, Pam & Rich departed on the long trip back to the States.

Unfortunately, absent from the main gathering, for various reasons, were Ian Cartner, Jerry Naylor, Graeme Wood, Ian Easterbrook, Bruce Burgess, Eric Amohanga, & Peter Warmke, although there were some individual meetings along the line. Let’s hope some of us can all meet up again in the not too distant future


L-R Maureen Rolfe-Smith; Pam Longton; Ron Hewson; Merv Williams; Geoff Rplfe-Smith; Rich Longton; Tony Hoggart

In the Red Crab


    

Merv Williams - Geoff Rolfe-Smith

Relaxing on the patio: Phol Cosgrove;
Rich; Gordon Owen

Same three old timers

Ron & Lynne at home

Rich; Bruce Burgess; Ron

Rich; Suree - Bruce's wife; Lynne; Ron; Pam

Pam & Rich; Bruce Burgess; Lynne & Ron

Barbara & Ian

Ron & Tony Hoggatr



Meet up again some did, for early September 2014 saw Ron & Lynne Hewson embark on an adventurous tour of the United States Eastern Seaboard and beyond, to view the sights and, hopefully catch up with a few "older?" ex ONI bods. And I, via the wonders of Skype, found myself able to join them now and again. With Ron & Lynne being i-everything, October 1st saw me greeting Dan Jeffries in his Tampa living room. I found 86 year old Dan to be the same thoughtful, Mr nice guy I recalled from almost thirty years ago. It was a pleasure to meet up with him again. A pity I was not able to join them for dinner, but Skype is not quite that advanced. Best I could do was raise a glass. This is the story of that trip.

THE GERIATRIC GYPSIES USA ROADTRIP 2014

"We started in Washington DC, where the humidity was the most unpleasant part of a very busy sightseeing week. Then, picking up our SUV hire car, we travelled (note for those in the US, this is proper English!) through Maryland, down to the 22 mile Chesapeake Bay bridge, and off to the Outer Banks, to check out the Wright Brothers Memorial, amongst other things. We had a great few days driving down the islands, across many interesting bridges, catching various little large ferries, visiting appealing sites, until we reached South Carolina. Here we spent a few days wandering leisurely down the coast, taking less-travelled roads, exploring less populated inlets and waterways until we reached Florida, and our first ex ONI contact. Gordon and Anna Marie Haas live in their new home near Jacksonville. We’d previously met up several times over the past few years, in California, when travelling that coast, what a grand time we had. Now it seems like we are real "old" friends, but the memories never really fade when someone like Gordon starts to reminisce. Full of life, laughter, and great ideas, always going at 100 miles an hour, of course.

A wonderful time was had with them, then we departed south along the Keys, all the way to Key West. Here we did all the usual touristy things before retracing our steps, up to Tampa, on the west coast of Florida. After a bit of a geographic challenge, and i- phone help from Mike Matthews in New Orleans, we met up with a grand old man whom Ron knew well from his ONI days in Angola. No doubt many others will recall Dan Jefferies, too. Still a great guy. We spent a wonderful day with him, out to lunch, talking over old times, even Skyping Dave Taylor in the UK. Dan gave us a number of old photos of his ONI days, so hopefully we can scan some of them for Dave to put on the website.

After this great visit with Dan we decided "why not", so continued our "memory lane" trip and drove across Alabama and Mississippi to New Orleans. Our GPS seemed to think it was a good idea to take us through the back streets of Algiers towards the city! so we then experienced a river boat ride and back streets like nothing we had ever seen when we lived there 35 years ago! Nevertheless, our hotel in Harvey was excellent and next day we were keen to get going to 5728 Jefferson Highway. We had been warned!… just as well, for the old ONI office and buildings are now a thrift store and, being a Saturday morning, there was standing room only! No bright yellow PHI choppers in the car park out back, just a pile of beaten up rusty cars trying to manoeuvre around each other whilst being loaded up with furniture, clothes, kids and various discarded paraphernalia. Had ONI still been in residence, and hiring...... ! We did manage to take a photo of Ron, outside, before the next invasion of "goodie bag" snatchers arrived!

Next visit was to our old house on Melody Drive, Metairie, and a real bonus! Our neighbour across the road (from 1976) was still there, and we were delighted to meet up again after all this time. And the guy who now owns our, then rented, home was keen to show us all the alterations he had made. After this it was off to Harahan, to visit Claudette & Jack Roberts. They live across the street from Al Poppe, who was unfortunately too ill to see us. He passed on a short while later.

We had another great evening with Claudette & Jack listening to stories about many other folks who had worked in the office with Claudette for many years. It was quite sad to hear tell of the demise of ONI first hand from her, but it was good to hear many happy stories of her days working with John Coffman, George Roussel, Joe Delarno etc, but especially Ray Landry. Even Gus Gustoferson & Bill Justice got a mention!

Next morning, a bright & warm Sunday, we hit downtown New Orleans, of course. We were treated to a really delicious brunch by Hans Karlsson at his fantastic restaurant "The Trolley Stop", on St Charles Ave. We knew Hans was ‘home’, for his 1000 cc Goldwing Honda was prominently parked in its reserved spot, right outside! The line for the tables was down the street, so we felt privileged just to walk right in and meet Hans at his table. His ONI stories could fill a book all on their own, and I’m sure his restaurant is listed as a "MUST VISIT" in most travel guides to the city. We can understand why.

Naturally, after much good food a walk in the French Quarter was essential. It brought back many memories for us: Mardi Gras in the good old days, Bourbon St Blues, and Jazz. A visit to Cafe du Monde was also a must, with its sticky beignets and good coffee. We also took a walk to see "Natchez" set off upriver, her paddlewheel churning.

We then had a phone call from Roger Mcleod’s ex wife, Becky, who now lives in New Iberia, with her new husband. She insisted we go and visit them. It was another long drive but one we enjoyed, passing over massive causeways, and through the bayous. This was a most entertaining visit, Becky is such a creative person and her home reflected this. We had also been asked by Dave Clayton to try and visit him in Texas, but time constraints meant we needed to head north, not west. We stopped for a few hours in Laurel, Miss, and had a welcome break with Roger McLeod and wife, Carole. Roger had a big box full of photos from Foots McGee, so many of these were "examined" over a few beers.

That proved to be our final meeting with ONI people. We then hit the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Smokey Mountains, stopped in Asheville, North Carolina, to view "Biltmore", the magnificent, huge, private Vanderbilt home. We also checked out Gordon Haas’ new home, set in beautiful woods. Then we were on our way North, to return the car, etc. After a very rainy, stressful drive around the big train station in DC, we dropped off the car, then rode the train to Philadelphia; a few days to check out America’s birthplace. We loved Philly, a very nice city, especially all the art and sculptures throughout the parks. Our last week we spent in New York, New Jersey actually, across the river from the World Trade Centre. We spent a very moving afternoon visiting the memorial, of course, as well as a few trips downtown. But as we’d been in NYC a few years earlier, in much warmer weather, we didn’t linger too long. Another highlight, and quite an achievement, was climbing the 535 steps inside the Statue of Liberty, to exit inside Lady Liberty’s crown. This had been on my "bucket list" for quite a few years.

So we reached the end of this fabulous 10 week road trip, which we consider to be one of our very best motoring vacations. Nothing seemed to go wrong, we saw many beautiful sights, met & re-met some wonderful people, and experienced some awesome moments. As Geriatric Gypsies, we will probably never "pass this way again". However, we were reminded many times of how lucky we have been over the years, travelling together so much, on so many incredible journeys.


Ron by the Liberty Bell

With Anne-Marie & Gordon Hass

Visiting Roger McCleod

With Dan Jefferies

Waving goodbye to the Natchez

Top of the Statue of Liberty

On the Blue Mountain Trail

Lynne at Key West

The old familiar site - now no longer

The old ONI back lot, now a market

With Claudette & Jack Roberts

Another time, another place; visiting with Ian & Annette Cartner at Richmond, Nelson NZ in Oct 2108 to celebrate Ian's 77th birthday


A Visit to Gig Harbour, Plus. 2016

In May 2016 I took my 32 yea old son on a visit to the USA (or maybe he took me, even though I paid!) where part of the time we stayed with Rich & Pam Longton, at their home up in Gig Harbor; which I said at the time, reminded me of Amnity (as in Jaws), but without the shark! Of course, during that time some of our ONI stories occasionally rolled out again, and I don't think my son believed half of them. But of course, ours were the days before the Health and Safety Executive acquired the power to ban most of what was then fun and adventuresome. In those days, safety was in our hands, our own responsibility, and that seemed to work out OK.

After a few meals, with the odd drink, at Rich’s, and a couple of nice restaurants along the picturesque waterfront - Tides, & Anthonys - I think William was at last beginning to realize it really had been a different world back then, and better for it.

My most lasting impression this time in the States was the way New York had recovered from Sept 11th 2001. I had visited the site before, shortly after the attack, when it was still a hole in the ground, this time was different. If it weren't for the various memorials, and the vast crowds come to pay their resects, Ground Zero might never have been, such a fantastic job have they done. Two large square waterfalls disappear into the ground, one on the footprint of each of the original buildings. Topping their surrounds are stainless panels etched with the names of all who perished. Alongside each name is a small hole, into which, on the anniversary day of that person's birth, is placed a white rose. Rising behind this area is the new World Trade Centre building, even taller than the original, and the view from the top - when you finally get there - is absolutely stunning. Well worth the wait, but, being partially disabled at the time, I was shown lots of consideration.

Also on this trip I got to visit Las Vegas, 52 years after the idea was first mooted on completion of my second ONI project (P84). But I was far too late for Sinatra and suchlike! I wasn’t really that impressed, and I don’t think William was either once he realized how quickly his money could disappear!

We of course took the Grand Canyon helicopter tour - front seats - and this did impress us both.


Rich's abode

Mt Rainier viewed from Rich's lounge

Gig Harbour from across the creek

Lunch on the patio

Rich & Pam at Tides

Rich & William at Gig Harbour

Tacoma Narrows bridge, cross for Gig Harbour

That famous Las Vegas sign

New York New York, Las Vegas

William atop the Statue of Liberty

Memorial Square & Transportation Centre

One victim's birthday rose

View from atop the new Trade Centre

Intrepid Aviation Museum, NY


THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

On Saturday 11 May 2019 at about 1500 hours two older kiwis from the bottom of the world crept quietly into the lounge at 7 Deerstone Way, Dunnington, York, U.K. & said "hi there" to the guy who has been the mover & designer behind the ONI website for the past 10 years,......David Taylor!

(Ron & Lynne had set this up with Geoff Metcalfe and my ex, Elizabeth, and son, William, via Whatsapp over the past month, and snook them into my house. Ron & Lynne stayed with Elizabeth and husband, John, at their place during the York visit, and with Geoff & Jan after arrival in the UK, prior to coming down to York, and again before departure back to NZ.)

"Bloody Struth" was the expletive when the afore mentioned person spotted the two Kiwi’s in his house. We, Ron & Lynne Hewson had decided it was time to make a quick surprise trip over from New Zealand to see David & spend time recalling memories of the last fifty years around the world with him. Dave was absolutely amazed to see us, to say he was excited & delighted (once he'd gotten over the shock) is an understatement. He then phoned Peter Studer in Berne, Switzerland, and then Rich Longton in Tacoma, Washington State to tell them of the surprise. So of course that meant a chance for Ron to talk to these fellows too, as Dave said it was just like an old ONI get together, sitting around a motel room chewing the fat about who & what & where. Remember those days you old doodlebuggers?

The next three weeks together we then spent checking out various restaurants in the York area, catching up with old friends and seeing the sights. Prior to coming to York we had spent a few days in Newcastle with Geoff Metcalfe & his wife & they kindly showed us the countryside & historical sights of County Durham. Not only that, Geoff’s wife,  Jan loaned us her car for a couple of weeks as they were going to be away.

Geoff has been the main sponsor (Metcalfe Components) of the ONI website. Ron & Lynne had initially met Geoff in Darwin, Australia in 1970, so as in most ONI stories of the last fifty years we can say that a lot of water has passed along the cable since those early days.

Unfortunately, all too soon, the time to say a sad and tearful goodbye came around and we had to leave both Geoff & Dave and return to the bottom of the world. However, not only were we saying goodbye to two very dear old friends we all decided it was time to deliver the Crosstalk website into the realms of history, as it were (Unless anyone out there wishes to take it on!). So many of the hardy souls who were the staunch & true characters of those pioneering days of Shoran, Loran & Raydist have now moved on to a new distant base station or are blinking a different signal.

I personally want to thank and acknowledge David Taylor's epic work producing & developing the ONI website. He has spent many many hours compiling photographs, collecting data and gathering scraps of information into a wonderful format that surely is recognised by so many folks worldwide.
He has truly created something that has given a great deal of pleasure and has revived distant memories to numerous people who were working together (although often just briefly) around this challenging world. To those of you who had supported Dave, sent him information, shared your words, correspondence etc, I Lynne, sincerely thank you, it's meant a lot, and possibly more than you realise.

Whether it was a Breed of Men, or a Rolling Stone?
There was always a bond and often deeply forged.
Woohoo! What a ride!
Kindest wishes
Lynne & Ron Hewson



At the Cross Keys, Dave's local

Downtown at the Go-Down

Dave with son, William

Final departure, at step daughter Victoria's

A very good night at restaurant Rustique

Ron & Dave sample Mead at the Valhalla bar

Ron's turn with the Mead

Remains of the jail at Pontefract Castle

Sundial at Pontefract Castle

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